Intel’s latest batch of NUCs are out and I took the Celeron model DN2820FYKH for a spin. For full specs, please refer to Intel’s product page. These little sub AUD$200 units seem perfect for use as a XBMC media centre.
Outside the DN2820FYKH
The front of the unit has a USB 3.0 port and a consumer infrared sensor. The power button and HDD LED are located on the front top as well.
As we head towards the rear of the NUC we see a standard lock hole for those needing to secure their units. The back of the unit contains the ethernet, HDMI, audio and USB 2.0 ports.
Inside the DN2820FYKH
Opening the NUC is still as easy as removing the 4 bottom screws:
The inclusion of a 2.5″ drive bay has added a little height to the new enclosure. That said, 2.5″ HDD options are plentiful compared to mSATA.
This unit is extremely fussy with RAM so make sure you check the supported list first. The RAM has to be low voltage (1.35v). I used a 8GB Crucial DDR3 SO-DIMM.
Installing the OS
An important thing to note with this unit is that it does not support Windows 7. Even though I managed to get it to install (a PITA process) a number of devices were still broken and refused to work without valid drivers. In the end, I installed Windows 8.1 Pro and that was an easy process.
Before you install the OS, be sure to read the following guide from Intel:
Windows 8 and 8.1, 64-bit versions:
1. Press F2 when prompted during boot to enter BIOS Setup.
2. On the Devices and Peripherals > USB menu, set USB3.0 (XHCI mode) support to Enable.
3. On the Devices and Peripherals > SATA menu, set Chipset SATA Mode to AHCI.
4. On the Boot > Boot Priority menu, in the Legacy Boot Priority pane, uncheck Legacy Boot to disable it.
5. On the Boot > Boot Configuration menu, in the UEFI Boot pane, set OS Selection to Windows 8.X.
6. Press F10 to save your changes and exit BIOS Setup.
7. Proceed with the installation of the operating system.
OK, now that the latest build of XBMC is installed, time to make some configuration changes to enable this to run in headless mode.
The first thing we want to do is make Windows 8 autologin. To do this, load netplwiz from the Run window (Windows Key + R).
Uncheck “Users must enter a username…….“. When you do this, the system will ask you to enter user credentials of the autologin user. If this is a shared PC, don’t forget about the risks of enabling this.
Next, we want to auto start XBMC. Type the following in Run – shell:startup.
When the Start-up window opens, create/copy a shortcut pointing to your XBMC executable.
IMPORTANT – You need to do this last step to ensure XBMC loads on top. If you don’t do this, XBMC loads in the background and you are presented with the live tiles Start screen. Right-click on the taskbar and go into the properties. On the Navigation tab tick the 2 options shown in the image below in the Start screen section.
The beauty of the new model NUCs is the inclusion of a consumer level infrared sensor. I wasn’t able to get this working with XBMC initially but after removing the drivers and reinstalling from the Intel site it all came good. I am now able to use my Logitech Harmony One remote to control the unit.
For anyone looking for a cheap, silent and capable unit for XBMC, the DN2820FYKH kit is hard to pass up. BYO an SSD, 8GB RAM and supported OS of your choice and you have a solid setup that will suit most media needs. Whilst I experienced some teething issues getting everything up and running, I’m fairly confident that future updates will iron these out.